First, the Dos:

1. DO start small.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Make sure you can see the finish line by starting with something you can achieve in a couple of weeks. Once you get some momentum going, you can move onto bigger goals.

For example, rather than setting “Write a novel” as your goal, a more achievable goal is “Outline novel idea.” Then, once you finish your outline, your next goal could be “Write chapter one.”
Taking this approach will help you see progress and feel a constant sense of accomplishment, so that you’re more likely to keep going and achieve your ultimate goal.

2. DO be specific.
Avoid generalities like, “Get in shape.” Set specific goals like, “Work out 15 minutes each morning before work for 2 weeks.”

3. DO write it down.
The mere act of writing your goals down helps to solidify them or “make them real” in your mind. Having something tangible to refer back to also serves as a reminder to keep you focused and motivated.

4. DO give yourself deadlines.
To-do list are easy to ignore if there are no deadlines. Giving yourself deadlines creates a sense of urgency to take action now. It elevates your goals to have equal importance in your life as work deadlines and other day-to-day responsibilities. It also forces you to measure your progress on a regular basis, so you can see where you are and how far you’ve come.

5. DO build in rewards.
This is the step most people forget. Positive reinforcement is a powerful force for change. Knowing there’s a reward waiting for you on the other side of a challenge can be just the incentive you need to get over hurdles along the way.

Now, the Don’ts

1. DON’T let your goals too high to achieve them.
Be ambitious, but also realistic. Remember, once you achieve your starter goals, you can always set new ones. Think of goal-setting as a ladder to your dreams and take it one rung at a time.

2. DON’T wait.
We all have a million reasons NOT to get started today. “I’m not feeling well.” “I’m so busy at work.” “My family is in town.” Stop! Stop making excuses, stop procrastination, stop getting in your own way. Just get to it … right now, today.

3. DON’T dwell on past failures.
Defeatist attitudes lead to defeat. What’s done is done. Don’t let yesterday ruin today. Learn to let go.

4. DON’T expect perfection.
Accept the fact that you might not meet every goal you set, or make it on the first try every time. Don’t beat yourself up over setbacks. Instead, try to recognize your own achievements, however small. You will find that positive thinking and a healthy sense of self-worth will get you through any challenge.

5. DON’T let anything get in your way.
We’re all busy. We all have bad days. We all deal with traffic and bills and the daily hassles of life. Get over it. Work through the tough times and keep going.